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So if you’re one of the 154 people on my email list (I know right…only 154?), you got the email I sent out the other day that eluded to something big that will be happening around here soon.
If you’re new to NinjaBudgeter, I started this site in late-2016 as a way to share my unique ideas about budgeting, side-hustling and financial management with the world. Oh, and hopefully make some money. That’s right, you are literally inside my side-hustle right now…awkward?
Anyways, if you’ve been around for a while you know that in November of last year, I did a $100 blogging challenge. For those of you who don’t know, I challenged myself to earn $100 through this blog. I did it, though not in the way I originally intended.
Since then, I’ve let other priorities keep me from investing the time and energy into growing this site.
Major happenings in 2018
Though my focus on this blog hasn’t been as consistent as I would like it to be, I have had a few major successes this year.
I have been interviewed or mentioned on three podcasts this year including Side Hustle Nation. I’m only on for a few seconds of this episode but whatever, it counts :). I find that I enjoy communicating through voice and video so I’m hoping to do some more of these in the future.
In December of last year, my average views per day was around 40. Super lame for a site that was over a year old. As of this month, I get anywhere from 300-600 views most days. That’s a big win in my opinion.
I had a couple of significant traffic spikes this year. The first was when I wrote an article about why I stopped following Dave Ramsey. That was shared a lot on Pinterest and Twitter and resulted in a traffic spike and quite a bit of engagement.
The second was a month or so later when that same article was featured on Rockstar Finance. I got more than 2.5k visitors in a single day, more than I’d ever had before. While the initial buzz died off both times you can see that my traffic leveled off at a higher point than where it was previously.
While I haven’t focused much on making income since the $100 challenge, I have made a few affiliate sales of a low three-figure product this year. The commission isn’t great and the sales come far between, but it’s encouraging that some people are connecting with the offers on my site. Now I just have to dial it in and better align my affiliate offerings with the needs of my audience.
Though I’ve made a few bucks, I haven’t been able to get steady income coming in just yet. At the beginning of this year, I made a goal to get my site’s income to $1000/month by the end of the year, and to say I’m not on-track to make that goal would be a dramatic understatement.
So with that said, here’s what I’m going to do about it…
The $1000 Challenge
Last year, I committed myself to making $100 using the advice found in this post by the guys over at Breaking The One Percent. If you’re not familiar with Jeff and Ben, you should check out their other blog DollarSprout, and consider joining their Facebook group. They’re pro bloggers who have made a name for themselves with hard work and determination, and they don’t have a $500 course to sell you :)…yet.
When I went public with the challenge, part of what kept me motivated to see it through was knowing that people were watching. I have a ton of great ideas about how to make money, but there’s definitely more credibility that goes along with watching somebody go out and do it in real-time.
So the next logical step for me is the $1000 Challenge. My goal is to earn at least 1k total from this site between now and New Years.
That’s right, $1000. That’s ten Benjamins, a year’s worth of car insurance or two impulsive trips to Costco…
I’m not sure if I can still get this bad boy pushing 1k/month by year’s end so I’ve challenged myself to make $1000 total over the next three months. Sounds fairly simple right? I mean after all, there are a ton of bloggers doing more impressive numbers than that. Allan, David and the Jeff/Ben powerhouse team are just a few examples.
To be completely honest, I’m scared to do this. $1000 is a lot of money compared to the bits and pieces I’ve been pulling in so far. There’s a very real possibility that I will fail, and will do so publicly.
I don’t just want to make a thousand bucks (though that will be nice), I want to prove to myself that blogging success isn’t beyond my reach and encourage you to get hustling, whatever that means to you.
How I’m going to make $1k
I’ve had very limited success with affiliate marketing on NinjaBudgeter. I have made a few sales (Amazon, and a more expensive course) but nothing to write home about. That’s going to change, and here’s how I’m going to do it:
I’m going to dig deep into my analytics and see which posts on my site are getting the most traffic (I really should know this…). Then, I am going to go through each post and try to find affiliate offers that are a great balance of what my readers need, and of course, fit in with the post. It’s a balance, I really need to feel good about what I’m promoting.
I’ve recently signed up for a couple of new (to me) affiliate programs that I’m stoked about so I’m going to enjoy this.
I have enabled Adsense ads on this site. Currently, I’m using AutoAds. This means that I’ve put one piece of code in one place on the site and Google (hopefully) chooses ads that suit the content and match the flow of the page. I don’t have to deal with inserting each individual ad.
Though I tried this in the past and wasn’t thrilled about how it made the site feel, I’m going to give it another shot. With the traffic I have now, I should be able to pull in $80-100 per month, bringing me almost ⅓ of the way to my goal of $1000 by year’s end and helping to pay for my hosting and the tools that I use.
Update October 8th – I have had ads up for a few weeks now and though I’ve made nearly $100, I absolutely can not stand how Adsense Auto Ads takes over every part of your website and you can’t stop them from showing in certain areas. The thing that really gets me is that I’ve had ads appearing in my header, making the readable portion of my page far too small. I just can’t deal with it and I’ve gone to placing ads manually :(.
I ran one sponsored post earlier this year and it was the easiest $100 I ever made. After a podcast interview with Pete from Do You Even Blog (great podcast, definitely recommend), I reached out to another site owner who was in the midst of launching a product and offered a sponsored post (and a promotion package) for $90. Now I know that $90 was pretty low for what I offered, but meh, live and learn.
I’d like to run one sponsored post per month for October, November and December. Based on my current traffic, social following and general street-cred in the personal finance community, I think $200-250 is a pretty reasonable ask for a sponsored post. Please go ahead and let me know if I’m wrong here :).
How to find companies that will sponsor my site
For a few months now, every time I come across a sponsored post, I add the company to a Google spreadsheet. Keeping track of companies that I know for a fact will pay for a sponsored post gives me a great starting point when looking for companies to reach out to.
I don’t have a ton of companies on my list at this time, probably less than ten. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to do some research on how to find companies who are interested in sponsorship. If you know of a good resource for this please send it my way!
My own product
That’s right, I want to launch a product. A few months back, I won a contest from the guys at Breaking The One Percent, it was a copy of Epic Instructor Lab by Kari Sayers. I have yet to check the course out but I will be doing that in the next month.
I want to launch a thorough, affordable course on how to cut your grocery bill in half. I’m thinking of a price point around $40-50 but I’m open to suggestions. In our family, I do the budgeting and most of the shopping/meal planning so you could say that this is kind of my specialty.
Whether or not it will sell…I have no idea. I know I can provide a ton of value but knowing exactly what kind of course will resonate with my audience…so, you, is tough. There are a hundred different ways that I can provide a valuable course but I keep coming back to this as it’s what I’m best at. Again, I’m open to suggestions/rediretions.
Naturally, I’m not going to be able to put a course together in a couple of weeks, so my goal is to have something to launch by December.
All of this is great, but I still need to get my traffic up. Ads, affiliate offers, sponsored posts and products don’t really mean much if nobody is swinging by this site to check it all out.
Here’s how I’m going to try and get my traffic numbers up over the next three months:
I’m aiming to up my posting form once per week to twice per week. In the past I’ve gotten really hung up on the quality vs. quantity thing but ultimately, the more articles I have out there the more opportunities I have to be found. At this time, my site only has around 60 posts and I’d like to get that over 100 with 5-10 key pillar posts.
Right now 60% of my traffic is coming from Pinterest. I’m not happy with how high this percentage is, but it is nice to be getting the traffic. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing now which is using Tailwind to post to around 45 group boards, posting to my own boards and spending around an hour per week on the site checking things out and sharing others’ content.
While I appreciate the traffic I get from Pinterest, I find the site confusing and a little annoying. There are always little bugs such as the Save button disappearing randomly from my own pins. The analytics also make no sense. While my Pinterest traffic has tripled since January, my ‘engaged viewers’ has dropped from 120k to just over 39k as of today…
I can’t make heads or tails of how they decide who is popular and what content to show.
Though I’ve had a bit of success, I find the platform to be confusing and I’m not sure I want to continue investing a ton of effort there.
I would say I have a fairly decent understanding of SEO. I worked as a Marketing Manager for a robotics company for the last two years and spent a good deal of time reading on how to optimize the company’s site and testing different things.
My 50+/- organic hits per day however, tells me that I have a lot to learn. I have been reading Mike Pearson’s blog and am hoping to scrape together enough money to take his course when it opens up again in the fall. If you want to learn more about SEO, Mike’s blog is an excellent place to get started.
Twitter is an interesting beast. I have a decent following (around 6k), but just can’t seem to get much traffic. When I post quotes, interesting thoughts etc., I seem to get a lot of engagement but getting people to transition from Twitter to my site is really hard. I’m going to try posting more 5-10x per day on Twitter and see if that helps get some more traffic flowing.
I got interested in Facebook ads earlier this year when I heard the Deacon Hayes interview on the Side Hustle Nation podcast. I the episode, Deacon talks about how he has been able to get his ads cash flow positive, meaning the traffic he’s getting is earning him more through affiliate sales than it costs him.
How awesome is that? This is going to have to wait until I start seeing a bit of income flowing as we don’t have it in the budget right now.
I have a read a few posts lately about using Flipboard to generate traffic including this one. While I’m interested in this, I don’t know too much about Flipboard yet. It’s on my radar for the next few months though.
Before I can start moving forward, I’ve had to take a long look at where my site and brand are now. I get a lot of positive feedback on my content and brand but honestly, my engagement is low. With a bounce rate hovering around 90%, my readers aren’t sticking around to check out more of my content. This site is not yet one of those ‘holy-crap-I-need-to-bookmark-this’ sites. While I think I could make a living this way, it’s not really what I want in the long run.
I want a community.
I want to attract dozens of post comments and have my readers really engage with what I write. Maybe someday to build a Facebook group where budgeters and bloggers alike come to share ideas, inspiration and help each other out.
But I’m not there yet.
How you can help
If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Whether it’s a quick encouragement, a thought about my ideas, my site design, criticism or whatever else, I’d love it if you’d engage and let me know what you think.
You are the reader, and really, this is all about you.
Also, I think it would be awesome if you would consider joining me in this $1000 challenge. I think I can make a grand, and I think you can too. let me know if you’re going to join me and try to do the same with your site. I’ll support you in any way I can.
Want to see how this pans out? Enter your email below to receive updates on the challenge as I post them!